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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

UPR announces renovations to historic student dormitory

The $20 million project contemplates a complete overhaul of the ResiCampus building, including replacing its electrical and mechanical systems.

By The Star Staff

University of Puerto Rico (UPR) President Luis Ferrao Delgado has announced a $20 million renovation of the ResiCampus Student Residence, a historic building designed by the late German architect Henry Klumb.

The repairs will be paid for using funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the island Housing Department (via the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program), the United States Department of Education, and funds from the UPR. Construction is expected to last 600 days.

“I recognize the urgency of the need for housing for our students. For this reason, this project is one of the priorities among the reconstruction plans at the UPR,” Ferrao said. “Residence halls provide a supportive environment that facilitates academic success by providing access to resources and an environment conducive to study. This emblematic project will benefit our university community in Río Piedras, the adjacent communities of the municipality and continue to serve as an essential service for the country.”

Julio Collazo Rivera, the director of the Office of Physical Development and Infrastructure, said the ResiCampus building has approximately 120,000 square feet distributed over nine floors and the roof.

“The building has a total of 61 apartments. Currently, each apartment is divided into two units with a capacity for three (3) residents per unit, for 366 residents,” Collazo Rivera said this week. “The proposed project contemplates reducing the occupational load, considering only two residents per unit, maintaining the interior footprint of the spaces for new uses and new interior distribution. The building will house 233 residents with reduced occupational load.”

Río Piedras Campus Chancellor Angélica Varela Llavona said “the reconstruction and remodeling of the physical plant is one of the priorities that I identified when I assumed the responsibility of the Río Piedras chancellorship, and initiating a process of comprehensive transformation of the campus.”

“Today, with the start of the remodeling of Resicampus, we take a huge step forward to achieve that goal,” she said. “Likewise, we advance our commitment to meeting the residency needs of our university community.”

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), pointed out that to develop the project, COR3 advanced $3.7 million at the request of the UPR through the Working Capital Advance pilot program.

“Since the team of UPR President Luis A. Ferrao took the reins of the primary teaching center in Puerto Rico, the reconstruction projects have moved forward,” he said. “The beginning of the reconstruction of ResiCampus, and the beginning of the demolition of some buildings on the Bayamón Campus, are the spearhead of other major works close to beginning construction for the benefit of the student body.”

Andrés García Martinó, the deputy federal coordinator of FEMA Disaster Recovery, added that “the repair of ResiCampus will help the students of the Río Piedras Campus have accessible housing while they develop as professionals …”

“The agency will continue to support the University of Puerto Rico during this new phase of reconstruction, while we ensure compliance with the environmental and historical value requirements for this project,” he said.

The project contemplates a complete intervention of the building, replacing its electrical and mechanical systems. At the same time, the structure will be updated to comply with current regulations for accessibility, alarm and fire protection. Doors, windows and remodeling of all dormitory units and common areas of the building will be replaced, including the necessary cabinetry details to provide built-in furniture in all dormitories. The existing waterproofing system will be replaced by a new system that consists of a combination of three layers of asphalt membranes. The project’s first phase will be the mitigation of the presence of asbestos and lead, before beginning the remodeling work.

The scope of work also considers several enhancements to the exterior perimeter of the building, such as the construction of a new electrical substation and a new access ramp at the main entrance.

Because the building is on the State Historic Preservation Office Register of Historic Places, the iconic and original tiles (mosaics) on the walls of most of the bathrooms will be preserved as well as kitchens of the building and part of the symbolic windows designed by architect Klumb.

The ResiCampus design incorporated organic architecture in tune with the island’s tropical climate and a harmonious projection of integration and spatial fluidity between the building and its surroundings. With the design, Klumb created a sense of spatial continuity between the exterior and the interior, integrating lighting and natural ventilation strategies from the environment into its functional spaces.

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